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BV 4526 .H4 

Henry, Matthew, 1662-1714 

A church in the house 







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Author of the Commeatary oa tlie Bible. 

Among the salutations presented by the 
Apostle Paul in his first epistle to the Corin- 
thians, 16 : 19, was that from Aquila and 
Priscilla, and the church in their house. Some 
very good interpreters, I know, understand 
this of a settled, stated, solemn meeting of 
christians held at their house for public wor- 
ship ; and they were glad o? houses to meet in, 
where they wanted those better conveniences 
which the church was afterwards in her pros- 
perous days accommodated with. When they 
had not such places as they could wish, they 


thankfully made use of such as they could get. 

But others think it is meant only of their 
own family and the strangers within their 
gates, among whom there was so much piety 
and devotion that it might well be called a 
church, or religious house. Thus the ancients 
generally understood it. Nor was it only Aqui- 
la and Priscilla whose house was thus celebra- 
ted for religion, (here and Rom. 16 : 5,) but 
Nymphas also had a church in his house, Col. 
4 : 15, and Philemon, 5 : 2. Not but that oth- 
ers, to whom and from whom salutations are 
sent in Paul's epistles, made conscience of 
keeping up religion in their families ; but these 
are mentioned probably because their families 
were more numerous than most of those other 
families were, which made their family devo-, 
tions more solemn, and consequently more 

In this sense I shall choose to interpret it, 
and hence to recomjneTid fcwiih/ 7'eligimi, un- 
der the idea of a clmrcli in the liouse. When 
we see your public assemblies so well frequent- 


ed we cannot but thank God and take cou- 
rage ; your diligent attendance on the ministry 
of the word and prayers is your praise, and I 
tmst, through grace, it redounds to your spiri- 
tual comfort and benefit. 13ut my subject at 
this time will lead me to inquire into the state 
of religion in your private houses, whether it 
flourish or wither there ? Whether it be on 
the throne, or under foot there ] Herein I 
desire to deal plainly and faithfully with your 
consciences, and I beg you will give them 
leave to deal so with you. 

The pious and zealous endeavors both of 
magistrates and ministers for the reformation 
of manners and the suppression of vice and 
profaneness, are the joy and encouragement of 
all good people in the land, and a happy indi- 
cation that God has yet mercy in store for us. 
"If the Lord had been pleased to kill us, he 
would not have showed us such things as 
these." Now I know not any thing that will 
contribute more to the furtherance of this good 
work than the bringing o^ family religion moi-e 


into practice and reputation. Here the refor- 
mation must begin. Other methods may check 
the disease we complain of, but this, if it might 
universally obtain, would cure it. Salt must 
be cast into these springs, and then the waters 
would be healed. 

Many a time, no doubt, you have been urged 
to this part of your duty ; many a good sermon 
perhaps you have heard, and many a good 
book has been put into your hands with this 
design, to persuade you to keep up religion in 
your families, and to assist you therein : but I 
hope a further attempt to advance this good 
work, by one who is a hearty well-wisher to 
it, and to the prosperity of your souls and fami- 
lies, will not be thought altogether needless, 
and that by the grace of God it will not be 
wholly fruitless : at least it will serve to re- 
mind you of what you have received and heard 
to this purpose, that you may hold fast what is 
o^ood, and reoent of what is amiss. Rev. 3 : 3. 
The lesson then which I would recommend 
is this : 


The fun)ilio3 of Christians should bo little Churches : or, 
Wherever we have a house, God sliould have a Church 
in it. 

TTnlia]>py contests there have been, and still 
are, amonof wise and g^ood men about the con- 
stitution, order, and government of churches ; 
God by his grace heal these breaches, lead us 
into all truth, and dispose our minds to love 
and peace ; that while we endeavor herein to 
walk according to the light God has given us, 
we may charitably believe that others do so 
too ; lonofinof to be there where we shall be all 
of a mind. 

But I am now speaking of churches concern- 
ing which there is no controversy. All agree 
that masters of families, who profess religion 
and the fear of God themselves, should, ac- 
cording to the talents they are intrusted with, 
maintain and keep up religion and the fear of 
God in their families, as those who must give 
account : and that families, as such, should 
contribute to the support of Christianity in a 
nation, whose honor and happiness it is to be a 


christian nation. As nature makes families 
little kingdoms, (and perhaps oeconomics, or 
rules of the household, were the first and most 
ancient politics ;) so grace makes families little 
churches ; and those were the primitive church- 
es of the Old Testament, before *' men began 
to call upon the name of the Lord " in solemn 
assemblies, and " the sons of God came to- 
gether to present themselves " before him. 

Not that I would have these family church- 
es maintained in competition with, much less 
in contradiction to public religious assemblies, 
which ought always to have the preference : 
" The Lord loves the gates of Zion more than 
all the dwellings of Jacob," Psalm 87 : 2, and so 
must we ; and must not forsake the assembling 
of ourselves together, under color of exhorting 
one another daily at home. Far be it from us 
to offer any thing that may countenance the 
invading of the office of the ministry, and the 
usurping or superseding of the administration 
of the ordinances. These family churches 
(wliich are but figuratively so) must be erected 


and maintained in subordination to those more 
sacred and solemn establishments. I proceed 
to show, 

I. What that family religion is which 
^vill be as a church in the house. Churches 
are sacred societies, incoi-porated for the honor 
and service of God in Christ ; devoted to God, 
and employed for him ; so should our fami- 
lies be. 

1. Churches are societies devoted to God, 
called out of the world, taken in out of the 
common to be inclosures for God : he hap set 
them apart for himself; and because he has 
chosen them, they also have chosen him, and 
set themselves apart for him. The Jewish 
church was separated to God for a " peculiar 
people, a kingdom of priests." 

Thus o?ir houses must he cliurclics ; with our- 
selves we must give up our houses to the Lord, 
to be to him for a name and a people. All 
the interest we have, both in our relations and 
In our possessions, must be consecrated to 
God ; as under the law all that the servant had 


was his master's for ever, after he had consent- 
ed to have his ear bored to the door-post. 
When God effectually called Abram out of Ur 
of the Chaldees, his family assumed the ap- 
pearance of a particular church ; for, in obedi- 
ence to God's precept, and in dependence on 
God's promise, they took all the substance 
they had gathered, and the souls they had got- 
ten, and put themselves and their all under a 
divine conduct and government. Gen. 12 : 5. 
His was a great family, the father of it was the 
father of all them that believe ; but even little 
families, jointly and entirely given up to God, 
so become churches. When all the members 
of the family yield themselves to God, sub- 
scribe with their hands to be the Lord's, and 
surname themselves by the name of Israel, — 
and the master of the family, with himself, 
gives up all his right, title, and interest in his 
house, and all that belongs to it, to God, to be 
used for him, and disposed of by him ; here is 
a church in the house. 

More than once in the Old Testament we 


read of the dedication of private houses. Il is 
spoken of as a common practice. Deut. 20 : 5. 
** \VTiat man is there that hath built a new 
house, and hath not dedicated it ?" that is, ta- 
ken possession of it, in doing which it was 
usual to dedicate it to God by some solemn 
acts of religious worship. The 30th Psalm is 
entitled, *' A psalm or song at the dedication 
of the house of David." It is a good thing 
when a man has a house of his own, thus to 
convert it into a church, by dedicating it to the 
service and honor of God, that it may be a 
Bethel, a house of God, and not a Bethaven, 
-a house of vanity and iniquity. Every good 
christian who is a householder, no doubt does 
this habitually and virtually; having first given 
himself to the Lord, he freely suiTenders all 
he has to him ; but it may be of good use to do 
it actually and expressly, and often to repeat 
this act of resignation, '* This stone which I 
have set for a pillow shall be God's house." 
Gen. 28 : 22. Let all I have in my house, and 
all I do in it, be for the glory of God ; I own 


him to be my great Landlord, and I hold all 
from and under him : to him I promise to ren- 
der daily praises and thanksgivings ; and to do 
the services, the easy services of gospel obe- 
dience. Let holiness to the Lord be written 
upon the house and all the furniture of it, ac- 
cording to the word which God has spokenr. 
Zech. 14 : 20, ^. Let God by his providence 
dispose of the affairs of my family, and by his 
gTace dispose the affections of all my house- 
hold, according to his will, to his own praise. 
Let me and mine be only, wholly, and for 
ever his. 

Be persuaded, brethren, thus to dedicate 
your houses to God, and beg of him to come 
and take possession of them. If you never did 
it, do it to-night with all possible seriousness 
and sincerity. " Lift up your heads, O ye 
gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, 
and the King of Glory shall come in." Bring 
the ark of the Lord into the tent you have 
pitched, and oblige yourselves and all yours 
to attend it. Look upon your houses as tem- 


pies for God, places for worsMp, and all your 
possessions as dedicated things, to be used for 
God's honor, and not to be alienated or pro- 

2. There are three things necessary to the 
well being of a church, and which are most 
considerable in the constitution of it. Those 
are doctrine, icorsJup, and 'discipline. Where 
the truths of Christ are professed and taught, 
the ordinances of Christ administered and ob- 
served, and due care taken to put the laws of 
Christ in execution among all who profess 
themselves his subjects, and this under the con- 
duct and inspection of a gospel ministry, there 
is a church : and somethino: answerable here- 
unto there must be in our families, to denomi- 
nate them little churches. Masters of families, 
who preside in the other affairs of the house, 
nmst go before their households in the things 
of God. They must be as prophets, priests 
and kings in their own families ; and as such 
they must keep up family doctrine, family wor- 



ship, and family discipline : then is there a 
church in the house, and this is the family re- 
ligion that I am persuading you to. 

(1.) Keep up family doctrine. It is not 
enough that you and yours profess to own the 
truth as it is in Jesus ; care must be taken and 
means used that you and yours be well ac» 
quainted with that truth, and that you grow in 
that acquaintance, to the honor of Christ and 
his holy religion, and the improvement of your 
own minds, and theirs who are under your 
charge. You must deal with your families as 
men of knowledge^ 1 Pet. 3:7; that is, as men 
who desire to grow in knowledge yourselves, 
and to communicate your knowledge for the 
benefit of others, which are the two good pro- 
perties of those who deserve to be called men 
of knowledge. That you may keep family doc- 

You must read the Scriptures to your fami- 
lies, in a solemn manner, requiring their attend- 
ance on your reading, and their attention to it; 
and inquiring sometimes whether they under- 


Stand what you read 1 I hope none of you are 
without Bibles in your houses, store of Bibles, 
a Bible for every member : thanks be to God 
we have them cheap and common in a lan- 
guage that we understand. The book of the 
law is not such a rarity as it was in Josiah's 
time. We need not brino^ this knowledore 
from afar, nor send from sea to sea, and from 
the river to the ends of the earth, to seek the 
word of God ; no, the Word is nigh us. When 
Popery reigned in our land, English Bibles 
were scarce things ; a load of hay, it is said, 
was once given for one torn leaf of a Bible. 
But now Bibles are every one's money. It is 
better to be without bread in your houses than 
without Bibles, for the words of God's mouth 
are and should be to you more than your ne- 
cessary food. 

But what will it avail you to have Bibles in 
your houses, if you do not use them 1 — to have 
the grjcat things of God's law and gospel 
wiitten to you, if you count them as a strange 
thing? You look daily into your shop-booka, 


and perhaps converse much with the news- 
books, and shall your Bibles be thrown by as 
an almanac out of date 1 It is not now penal 
to read the Scriptures in your families, as it 
was in the dawning of the day of reformation 
from popery, when there were those who were 
accused and prosecuted for reading in a certain 
great heretical book called an English Bible. 
The Philistines do not now stop up these wells, 
as Gen. 26 : 18 ; nor do the shepherds drive 
away your flocks from them, as Exod. 2:11 ; 
nor are they as a spring shut up, or a fountain 
sealed. You have great encouragements to 
read the Scripture ; for notwithstanding the 
malicious endeavors of atheists to vilify sacred 
things, the knowledge of the Scripture is still 
in reputation with all wise and good men 
You have also a variety of excellent help to 
understand the Scripture, and to improve your 
reading of it ; so that if you or yours perish 
for lack of this knowledge, as you certainly 
will if you persist in the neglect of it, the guilt 
will lie at your own doors. 


Let me, therefore, with all earnestness press 
it upon you to make the solemn reading of the 
Scripture a part of your daily worship in I'-our 
families. When you speak to God by prayer, 
he willing to hear him speak to you in his 
word, that there may be communion between 
you and God. This will add much to the so- 
lemnity of your family worship, and will make 
the transaction the more serious and impres- 
sive, if it be done in a right manner ; which 
will conduce much to the honor of God and 
your own and your family's edification. It 
will help to make the word of God familiar to 
yourselves, your children and household, that 
you may be ready and mighty in the Scrip- 
tures, and may thence he thoroughly furnished 
for every good word and work. It will like- 
wise furnish you with matter and words for 
prayer, and so be helpful to you in other parts 
of the service. 

If some pai-ts of Scripture seem less edifying, 
let those be most frequently read that are most 
80. David's Psalms are of daily use in devo- 


tion, and Solomon's Proverbs in conversation ; 
it will be greatly to your advantage to be well 
versed in them. And I hope I need not press 
any christian to the study of the New Testa- 
ment, nor any christian parents to the frequent 
instructing of their children in the pleasant 
and profitable histories of the Old Testament. 
When you only hear your children read the 
Bible, they are tempted to look upon it as no 
more than a school-book ; but when they hear 
you read it to them in a solemn religious man- 
ner, it comes, as it ought, with more authori- 
ty. Those masters of families who make con- 
science of doing this daily, morning and even- 
ing, reckoning it part of the duty of every day, 
I am sure have comfoft and satisfaction in so 
doing, and find it contributes much to their 
own improvement in christian knowledge and 
the edification of those who dwell under their 
shadow ; and the more, if those who are able 
expound, and others read some plain and pro- 
fitable exposition of what is read, or of some 
part of it. 


It is easy to add under tliis head, that the 
seasonable reading of other good books will 
contribute very much to family instruction. Tn 
helps of this kind we are as happy as any people 
under the sun, if we have but hearts to use the 
helps we have, as those who must give an ac- 
count shortly of them among other talents with 
which we are intrusted. 

You must also catechise your children and 
household. Let them learn some good cate- 
chism by heart, and keejD it in remembrance ; 
and by familiar discourse with them help them 
to understand it, as they become capable. It 
is an excellent method of catechising, which 
God himself directs us to, Deut. 6 r^? ; to teach 
our children the things of God, by talking of 
tiiem as we sit in the house and go by the 
way, when we lie down, and when we rise up. 
It is good to keep up stated times for this ser- 
vice, and be constant to them, as those who 
know how industrious the enemy is to sow 
tares while men sleep. If this good work be 
not kept going forward, it will of itself go 


backward. Wisdom also will direct you to 
manage your catechising, as well as the other 
branches of family religion, so as not to make 
it a task and burthen, but as much as may be a 
pleasure to those under your charge, that the 
blame may lie upon their own impiety, and not 
upon your imprudence, if they should say, 
''Behold what a weariness is it !" 

This way of instruction by catechising be- 
longs in a special manner to the ** church in 
the house ;" for that is the nursery in which 
the trees of righteousness are reared that af- 
terwards are planted in the courts of our God. 
Public catechising will turn to little account 
without family catechising. The labor of min- 
isters in instructing youth, and feeding the 
lambs of the flock, proves to many labor in 
vain, because heads of families do not do their 
duty in preparing them for public instruction, 
and examining their improvement by it. As 
mothers are children's best nurses, so parents 
are or should be their best teachers. Solo- 
mon's father was his tutor, Prov. 4 : 3, 4, and 


he never forgot the lessons his mother taught 
him, Prov. 31 : 1. 

The early consecration of your children in 
prayer and faith to God, as it lays a strong and 
lasting obligation upon them to live in the fear 
of God, so it brings you under the most power- 
ful engagements imaginable to bring them up 
in that fear. The child you gave up to God, Ji^ 
God as it w^ere gave back to you, w^ith the 
same charge that Pharaoh's daughter gave to 
Moses' mother, Tahe this cMld and 'nurse it 
for me ; and in nursing it for God you nurse 
it for better preferment than that of being 
called the son of Pharaoh's daughter. It is 
worth observing, that he to whom God first 
did the honor of covenanting blessings upon 
his seed, was eminent for this part of family- 
religion : " I know Abraham, that he will com- 
mand his children and his household after him 
to keep the way of the Lord." Gen. 18 : 19. 
Those, therefore, who would have the comfort 
of God's covenant with them and their seed, 
and would share in that blessing of Abraham 


which comes upon the Gentiles, must herein 
follow the example of faithful Abraham. The 
covenant of grace is forfeited, if care be not 
taken with it to transmit the means of grace. 
To what purpose are they discipled if they be 
not taught ? God expects that they should be 
brought up for him. 

Consider what your children are now capa- 
ble of, even in the days of their childhood. 
They are capable of receiving impressions now 
which may abide upon them while they live ; 
they are turned as clay to the seal, and now is 
the time to apply to them the seal of the Liv- 
ing God. They are capable of honoring God 
now, if they be well taught ; and by their join- 
ing, as they can, in religious services with so 
much reverence and application as their age 
will admit, God is honored, and you in them 
present living sacrifices, holy and acceptable. 
The hosannas even of children well taught 
will be the perfecting of praise, and highly 
pleasing to the Lord Jesus. 

Consider what your children are designed 


for, we hope, in this world ; they must be a 
seed to serve the Lord, which shall be account- 
ed to him for a generation. They are to bear 
up the name of Christ in their day, and into 
their hands must be transmitted that good thing 
which is committed to us. They are to be 
praising God on earth when we are praising 
him in heaven. Let them then be brought up 
apcordingly, that they may answer the end of- 
their birth and being. They are designed for 
the service of their generation, and to do good 
in their day. Consult the public welfare, then, 
and let nothing be wanting on your part to 
qualify them for usefulness, according to their 
place and capacity. « 

Consider especially what they are designed 
for in another world : they are made for eter- 
nity. Every child you have has a precious and 
immortal soul that must be for ever either in 
heaven or hell, according as it is prepared in 
this present state ; and, perhaps, it must re- 
move to that world of spirits very shortly : and 
will it not be very mournful, if, through your 


carelessness and neglect, your children should 
learn the ways of sin, and perish eternally in 
those ways 1 Give them warning, that, if possi- 
ble, you may deliver their souls ; at least that 
you may deliver your own, and may not bring 
their curse and God's too, their blood and your 
own too, upon your heads. 

I know that you cannot give grace to your 
children, nor is a religious life always the re- 
result of a religious education ; " The race is 
not " always "to the swift, nor the battle to the 
strong :" but if you make conscience of doing 
your duty by family-instruction, if you teach 
them the good and the right way, and warn 
them of by-paths ; if you reprove, exhort and 
encourage them as there is occasion ; if you 
pray with them, and for them, and set them a 
good example, and consult their souls' welfare 
in your arrangements for them, you have done 
your part, and may comfortably leave the issue 
and success with God. 

(2.) .Keep wp family icorship. You must not 
only as Prophets teach your families, but as 


Priests must go before them, in offering the 
spiritual sacrifices of prayer and praise. Here- 
in likewise y(^u must tread in the steps of faith- 
ful Abraham, whose sons you are while thus 
you do well ; you must not only, like him, in- 
struct your household, but, like him, 3'ou must 
with them call on the name of the Lord, the 
everlastinof God. Gen. 21 : 33. Wherever he 
pitched his tent, there he built an altar unto 
the Lord, Gen. 12 : 7, 8 ; 14 : 4, 18, though 
he was yet in an unsettled state, only a stranger 
and a sojourner; though he was among jealous 
and envious neighbors, for the Canaanite and 
the Perizzite dwelled then in the land, yet, 
wherever Abraham had a tent God had an 
altar in it, and he himself served at that altar. 
Herein he has left us an example. 

Families, as such, have many eiTands at the 
throne of grace, which furnish them with mat- 
ter and occasion for family-prayer every day ; 
errands which cannot be done so well, in se- 
cret, — or, public, — but are fittest to be done 
by the family in concert, and apart from other 


families. And it is good for tliose who lead in 
family- devotions, ordinarily to dwell most upon 
the concerns of those who join in their family- 
capacity, that it may be indeed a family-prayer, 
not only offered up in and by the family, but 
suited to it. In this and other services we 
should endeavor not only to say something," 
but something to the purpose. 

Five things especially you should have upon 
your heart in your family-prayer, and should 
endeavor to bring something of each, more or 
less, into every prayer with your families. 

You ought to make family -acknowledgments 
of your dc'pendaiice tipon God and his 'providence. 
Our great business in all acts of religious wor- 
ship, is to give unto the Lord the glory due 
unto his name ; and this we must do in our 
family- worship. Give honor to God as the 
founder of families by his ordinance, because 
" it was not good for man to be alone ;" as the 
founder of your families by his providence, for 
he it is *' who buildeth the house and setteth 
the solitary in families." Give honor to him as 


the o^vner and r#er of families ; acknowledge 
that you and yours are his, under his govern- 
ment, and at his disposal, " as the gheep of his 
pasture." Especially adore him as the " God 
of all the families of Israel," in covenant re- 
lation to them, and having a particular concern 
for them above others. Jer. 31 : 1. Give honor 
to the great Redeemer as the head of all the 
churches, even those in your houses ; call 
him the Master of the family, and the great 
upholder and benefactor of it ; for he it is in 
whom all the families of the earth are blessed. 
Gen. 12 : 3. All family-blessings are owing to 
Christ, and come to us through his hand by his 
blood. Own your dependance upon God, and 
your obligations to Christ for all good things 
pertaining both to life and godliness ; and make 
conscience of paying homage to your chief 
Lord, and never set up a title to any of your 
enjoyments in competition with his. 

You ought to vcid^e family -confessions of your 
sins against God; those sins you have contract- 
ed the guilt of in your family-capacity. Wo 


read in Scripture of the iniquity of the liouse^ 
as of Eli's. 1 Sam. 3 : 13, 14. Iniquity visited 
upon the children ; sins that bring wrath upon 
families, and a curse that enters into the house 
to consume it, with the timber thereof, and the 
stones thereof. Zech. 5 : 4. How sad is the 
condition of those families who sin together ^"^ 
and never pray together J who, by concurring^ 
in frauds, quarrels, e,iid excesses, by strength- 
ening one anotiier's hands in impiety and pro- 
faneness, fill the measure of family-guilt, and 
never agree together to do any thing to obtain 
mercy from God. 

And even religious families, that are not 
polluted with gross and scandalous sins, yet 
have need to join every day in solemn acts and 
expressions of repentance before God for their 
sins of daily infirmity. Their vain words and 
unprofitable conversation amo^g themselves ; 
their manifold defects in relative duties, pro- 
voking one another's lusts and passions, in- 
stead of provoking one another to love and to 
good works : these ought to be confessed and 


bewailed by the family together, tliat God may 
be glorified, and what has been amiss may be 
amended for the future. It was not only in a 
time of great and extraordinary repentance 
that families mourned apart, (Zech. 12 : 11,) but 
on the stated returns of the day of expiation 
the priest was particularly to make atonement 
for his household. Lev. 16 : 17. In many 
things we all offend God and one another; 
and a penitent confession of it in prayer to- 
gether will be the most effectual way of recon- 
ciling ourselves both to God and to one an- 
other. The best families, and those in which 
piety and love prevail most, yet in many 
things come short, and do enough every day 
to bring them upon their knees at night. 

You ought to offer up family -thanksgivings 
for the blessings which you, with your fami- 
lies, receive from God. Many are the mercies 
which you enjoy the sweetness and benefit of 
in common; of which, if wanting to one, all the 
family would be sensible. Has not God made 
a hedge of protection about you and your 

houq^s, and all that you have 1 Job, 1 : 10. 



Has he not created a defence upon every 
" dwelling-place " of Mount Zion, as well as 
upon her assemblies 1 Isa. 4 : 5. The dreadful 
alarms of a storm, and the desolations made, 
as by a fire, once in an age, should make us 
sensible of our obligations to divine Providence 
for our preservation from tempests and fire 
every day and every night. ''It is of the Lord's 
mercies that we are not consumed," and buried 
in the ruins of our houses. When the whole 
family comes together safe in the morning from 
their respective retirements, and when they re- 
turn safe at night from their respective em- 
ployments, there having been no disaster, no 
*' adversary," no evil occurrence, — it is so rea- 
sonable and as I may say so natural for them 
to join together in solemn thanksgivings to 
their gi'eat Protector, that I wonder how any 
who believe in a God and a Providence can 
omit it. Have you not health in your family, 
sickness kept or taken from the midst of you 1 
Does not God bring plentifully into your hands 
and increase your substance 1 Have you not 
your table spread, and your cup running over, 


and manna rained about your tents ? and does 
not the whole family share in the comfort of 
all this *? Shall not then the voice of thanks- 
giving be in those taberaacles where is the 
voice of rejoicing 1 Ps. 118 : 15. Is the vine 
by the house-side fruitful and flourishing, and 
are the olive plants round the table green and 
growing ? Are family-relations comfortable and 
agreeable, not broken nor embittered, and shall 
not God be acknowledged herein, who makes 
every creature to be what it is to us 1 Shall 
not the God of your mercies, your family-mer- 
ries, be the God of your praises, your family- 
praises, and that daily ? 

The benefit and honor of your being chris- 
tian families, your having in God's house, and 
within his walls, a place and a name better than 
that of sons and daughters, and the salvation 
this brings to your house, furnishes you with 
abundant matter for joint thanksgivings. " You 
hath he known above all the families of the 
earth," and therefore he expects in a special 
manner to be owned by you. Of all houses, 
the house of Israel, the house of Aaron and 


the house of Levi have most reason to bless 
the Lord, and to say, '* His mercy endure th 
for ever." 

You ought to present your family-fetitions 
for the mercy and grace which your families 
need. Daily bread is received by families to- 
gether, and we are taught not only to pray for 
it every day, but to pray together for it, saying, 
Our Father^ give it us. There are affairs and 
employments in which the family is jointly 
concerned, and therefore should jointly ask 
of God wisdom for the management of them, 
and prosperity therein. There are family-cares 
to be cast upon God by prayer, family-com- 
forts to be sought, and family- crosses which 
they should together beg him to sanctify and 
remove. Hereby your children will be more 
effectually possessed with a belief of, and re- 
gard to the divine Providence, than by all the 
instructions you can give them ; which will look 
best in their eye when thus reduced to prac- 
tice by your daily acknowledging God in all 
your ways. 

You desire that God will give wisdom and 


f2^race to your chiklreTi, you " travail in birth 
again till you see Christ forraed in them," you 
pray for them ; it is well, but it is not enougli; 
you must pray with them ; let them hear you 
pray to God for a blessing upon the good in- 
instructions and counsels you give them ; it 
may perhaps lead them to pray for themselves, 
and increase their esteem both of you and of the 
good lessons you teach them. You would have 
your servants diligent and faithful, and this per- 
haps would helj) to make them so. Masters do 
not give to their servants that which is just and. 
equal, if they do not continue in prayer with 
them. They are put together, Col. 4 : 1, 2. 

There are some temptations which families, 
as such, lie open to. Busy families are in temp- | 
tation to worldliness and neglect of religious 
duties; mixed families are in temptation to 
discord and mutual jealousies; decaying fami- 
lies are in temptation to distrust, discontent, 
and indirect courses to help themselves : they 
should therefore not only watch, but pray to- 
gether that they be not overcome by the temp- 
tations they are exposed to. 


There are family-blessings which God has 
promised, and for which he will be sought un- 
to, such as those on the house of Obed-edom 
for the ark^s sake; or the mercy which the 
apostle Paul begs for the house of Onesipho- 
rus. 2 Tim. 1 : 16. These joint blessings must 
be sought by joint prayers. There is a special* 
blessing which God commands upon families 
that dwell together in unity, Ps. 133 : 1, 3, 
which they must seek for by prayer, and come 
together to seek for it, in token of that unity 
which qualifies for it. Where God commands 
the blessing we must beg the blessing. God 
by promise blesses David's house, and there- 
fore David, by prayer, blesses it too. 2 Sam. 
C : 20. 

You ought also to make family -i7ifer cessions 
for others. There are families you stand relat- 
ed to, or which, by neighborhood, friendship or 
acquaintance, you become interested in, and 
concerned for ; and these you should recom- 
mend in your prayers to the grace of God, and 
your family that are joined to you in the rela- 
tion should join you in those prayers. Evil 


tidings perhaps are received from relations at a 
distance, which are the grief of the family; God 
must then be sought unto by the family for 
succor and deliverance. Some of the branches 
of the family are, perhaps, in distant countries 
and in dangerous circumstances, and you are 
solicitous about them ; it will be a comfort to 
yourselves, as well as of advantage to them, to 
make mention of them daily in your family- 
prayers. The benefit of jDrayer will reach far, 
because He who hears prayer can extend his 
hand of power and mercy to the utmost corners 
of the earth, and to them that are afar off upon 
the sea. 

In the public peace likewise we and our 
families have j^eace ; and therefore if we forget 
thee, O Jerusalem, we are unworthy ever to 
stand in thy courts or dwell within thy walls. 
Our families should be witnesses for us that 
^vc pray daily for our land and the prosperity 
of all its interests ; that praying every where 
we make supplication for our rulers and all in 
authority. 1 Tim. 2 : 3, 8. That we bear upon 
our hearts the concerns of (lod's church 


abroad, especially the suffering parts of it 
Thus keeping up a spiritual communion with 
all the families that in every place call on the 
name of the Lord Jesus. 

In a word, let us go by this rule in our fami 
ly-devotions ; whatever is the matter of oui 
care, let it be the matter of our prayer ; and 
let us allow no care which we cannot in faith 
spread before God : and whatever is the mat 
ter of our rejoicing, let it be the matter of our 
thanksgiving ; and let us withhold our hearts 
from all those joys which do not dispose us for 
the duty of praise. 

Under this head of family-worship I must 
not omit to recommend to you the singing of 
fsalms in your families, as a part of daily wor- 
ship, especially Sabbath worship. This is a 
part of religious worship which participates 
both of the word and prayer ; for therein we 
are not only to give glory to God, but to teach 
and admonish one another; it is therefore very 
proper to make it a transition from the one to 
the other. It will warm and quicken you, re- 
fresh and comfort you ; and perhaps if you 


have little children in your houses, they will 
sooner take notice of it than of any other 2>aTt 
of your family devotion ; and some good im- 
pressions may thereby be fastened upon them 

(3.) Keep up family -discipline, that so you 
may have a complete church in your house, 
though a snrall one. Reason teaches us that 
every man should bear rule in his own house. 
Esth. 1 : 22. And since this, as well as other 
power is of God, it ought to be employed for 
God ,•• and they who so rule must be just, ruling 
in his fear. Joshua looked further than the 
acts of religious worship when he made that 
pious resolution, "As for me and my house, 
we will serve the Lord." Josh. 24 : 15. For 
we do not serve him in sincerity and truth, 
which is the service he speaks of, ver. 14, if 
we and ours serve him only on our knees, and 
do not take care to serve him in a rclii^ious 
life. Those only who have clean hands and a 
pure heart are accounted the generation of 
them that seek God. Ps. 24 : 4, 6. And with- 



out this, those who pretend to seek God daily 
do but mock him. Isa. 58 : 2. 

The authority God has given over your chil- 
dren and household is principally designed for 
this end, that you may thereby engage them 
for God and. godliness. If you use it only to 
oblige them to do your will, and so to serve your* 
pride ; and to do your business, and so to serve 
your worldliness ; you do not answer the great 
end of your being invested with it : you must 
use it for God's honor, by it to engage them 
as far as you can to do the will of God and 
mind the business of religion. Holy David not 
only blessed his household, but took care to 
keep good order in it, as appears by that plan 
of his family discipline which we have in the 
101st Psalm, a psalm which Mr. Fox tells us 
that blessed martyr Bishop Ridley often read 
to his family, as the rule by which he resolved 
to govern it. 

You are made keepers of the vineyard; be 
faithful to your trust, and carefully watch over 
those who are under your charge, knowing 
you must give account. 


Countenance every tli'ina; that is Q;ood and 
praiseworth }j in your children and domestics, { 
It is as much your dutyto commend and en- V 
courage those in your family who do well, as to 
reprove and admonish those who do amiss ; and 
if you take delight only in blaming that which 
is culpable, and are backward to praise that 
which is laudable, you give occasion to suspect 
something of an ill nature, not becominsr a 
good man, much less a good christian. It 
should be a trouble to us when we have a re- 
proof to give, but a pleasure to us to say with 
the apostle, "Now I praise you." 1 Cor. 11 : 2. 

Most people will be easier led than driven, 
and we all love to be spoken to kindly : when 
you see any thing that is hopeful and promis- 
ing in those under your charge, any thing of a 
towardly and tractable disposition, much more 
any thing of a pious affection to the things of 
God, you should contrive to encourage it. 
Smile upon them when you see them set their 
faces heavenwards, and take the first opportu- 
nity to let them know you observe it, and are 
well pleased with it, and do not despise the day 


of small tilings. This will quicken them to 
continue and abound in that which is good, it 
will encourage them against the difficulties 
they see in their way, and perhaps may turn 
the wavering, trembling scale the right way, 
and effectually determine their resolutions to 
cleave to the Lord. When you see them for-, 
ward to come to family- worship, attentive to 
the word, devout in prayer, industrious to get 
knowledge, afraid of sin, and careful to do 
their duty, let them have the praise of it, for 
you have the comfort of it, and God must have 
all the glory. Draw them with the cords of a 
man, hold them with the bands of love ; so 
shall your rebukes, when they are necessary, 
be the more acceptable and effectual. The 
great Shepherd gathers the lambs in his arms, 
can-ies them in his bosom, and gently leads 
them ; and so should you. 
I Discounte7iance every thing that is evil in your 
f household. Use your authority for the pre- 
venting of sin and the suppressing of every 
root of bitterness, lest it spring up and trouble 
you, and thereby many be defiled. Frown upon 


every thing that brings sin into your families> 
and introduces ill words or ill practices. Pride 
and passion, strife and contention, idleness and 
intemperance, lying and slandering, these are 
sins which you must not connive at, nor suffer 
to go without a rebuke. If you return to the 
Almighty, this among other things is required 
of you, that you " put away iniquity," all ini- 
quity, these and other like iniquities, "far from 
your tabernacle." Job, 22 : 23. Make it appear 
that in the government of your families you 
are more jealous for God's honor than for your 
own authority and interest ; and show your- 
selves more displeased at that which is an 
offence to God, than at that which is only an 
affront or damage to yourselves. 

You must indeed be careful not to provoke 
your children to wrath, lest they be discou- 
raged ; and as to your domestics, it is your duty 
"to forbear or moderate threatening :" yet you 
must also with holy zeal and resolution, and 
the meekness of wisdom, keep good order in 
your families, and set no wicked thing before 

their eyes, but witness against it. "A little 



leaven leaveneth the whole lump." Be afraid 
of havmg wicked servants in your houses, lest 
your children learn their way, and get a snare 
to their souls. Drive away with an angry 
countenance all that evil communication which 
corrupts good manners, that your houses may 
be habitations of righteousness, and sin may, 
never find shelter in them. 

II. I come now to offer some motives to 
persuade you thus to turn your families into 
little churches. And O that I could find out 
acceptable words with which to reason with 
you, so as to prevail ! Suffer 7ne a little, and I 
will show you what is to be said on God's heliaify 
which is worth your consideration. 

1. If your families be little churches, God, 
will come to you and dwell with you in them; iov 
he has said concerning the church, " This is 
my rest for ever, here will I dwell." It is a 
very desirable thing to have the gracious pre- 
sence of God with us in our families, that pre- 
sence which is promised where two or three 
are gathered together in his name. This was 


it that David was so desirous of. Ps. 101 : 2. 
" O when wilt thou come unto me ! His pa- 
lace, his court, would be as a prison, as a dun- 
geon to him, if God did not come to him and 
dwell with him in it ; and cannot your hearts 
witness to this desire ?- you who have houses 
of your own, would you not have God come to 
you and dwell with you in them ? Invite him 
then, beg his presence, court his stay. Nay, he 
invites himself to your houses by the offers of 
his favor and grace. BeJwld, he stands at your 
door and knocks : it is the voice of your beloved, 
open to him and bid him welcome ; meet him 
with your " Hosanna, blessed is he that com- 
eth." He comes peaceably, he brings a bless- 
ing with him, a blessing which he will cause to 
rest upon the habitations of the righteous. 
Ezek. 44 : 30. He will command a blessing, 
which shall amount to no less than life for ever- 
more. Ps. 133 : 3. This presence and blessing 
of God will make your relations comfortable, 
your affairs successful, your enjoyments sweet ; 
and behold by it all things are made clean to 
you. This Avill make your family- comforts 


double comforts, and your family-crosses but 
half crosses ; it ^vill turn a tent into a temple, a 
cottage into a palace. ** Beautiful for situation, 
the joy of the whole earth," are the houses in 
which God dwells. 

Now the way to have God's presence with 
you in your houses is to furnish them for his 
entertainment. Thus the good Shunamite invi- 
ted the prophet Elisha to the chamber she had 
prepared for him, by accommodating him there 
with a bed and a table, a stool and a candle- 
stick. 2 Kings, 4:10. Would you furnish your 
houses for the presence of God, it is not ex- 
pected that you furnish them as his tabernacle 
was of old furnished, with blue, and purple, 
and scarlet, and fine linen, but set up and keep 
for him a throne and an altar, that from the 
altar you and yours may give glory to him, and 
from the throne he may give law to you and 
yours ; and then you may be sure of his pre- 
sence and blessing, and may solace yourselves 
from day to day in the comfort of it. God will 
be with you in a way of mercy while you are 
with him in a way of duty ; "If you seek him 


hd will be found of you." The secret of God 
shall be in your tabernacle, as it was on Job's, 
ch. 29 : 4, as it is with the righteous, Ps. 25 : 
] 4 ; Pro. 3 : 32, 33. 

2. If you make your houses little churches, 
God u'ill make them his sanctuaries ; nay, he will \^ 
iiimself be to you as a sanctuary. Ezek. 11 : 
IG. The way to be safe in your houses, is to 
keep up religion and the fear of God in your 
houses ; so shall you dwell on high, and " the 
})lace of your defence shall be the munition of 
rocks." Isa. 33 : 16. The law looks upon a 
man's house as his castle : religion makes it 
truly so. If God's grace be the *' glory in the 
midst" of the house, his providence will make 
a wall of fire round about it. Zech. 2 : 5. Sa- 
lan found it to his confusion that God made a 
hedge about pious Job, about his house, and 
about all that he had on every side, so that he 
could not find one gap by which to break in 
upon him. Job. 1 : 10. Every dwelling-place 
of Mount Sion shall be protected as the taber- 
nacle was in the wilderness, for God has pro- 
mised to create upon it a cloud and smoke by 


day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night, 
which shall be a defence upon all the glory. 
Isa. 4 : 5. If we thus dwell in the house of the 
Lord all the days of our life, by making our 
houses his houses, we shall be hid in his pavi- 
lion, in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide 
us. Ps. 27 : 4, 5. 

Wherever we encamp under the banner of 
Christ, the angels of God will encamp round 
about us, and pitch their tents where we pitch 
ours ; and we little think how much we owe 
to the ministration of the good angels, that we 
and ours are preserved from the malice of 
evil angels, who are continually seeking to do 
mischief to good people. There are terrors 
that fly by night and by day, which they only 
who abide under the shadow of the Almighty 
can promise themselves to be safe from. Ps. 
91 : 1, 5. Would you insure your houses by 
the best policy of insurance, turn them into 
churches, and then they shall be taken under 
the special protection of Him who keeps Israel, 
and neither slumbers nor sleeps ; and if any 
damage come to them, it shall be made up in 


grace and glory. The way of duty is without 
doubt the way of safety. 

Praying famihes are kept from more mis- 
chiefs than they themselves are aware of. They 
are not sensible of the distinction which a 
kind Providence makes between them and 
others ; though God is pleased sometimes to 
make it remarkable, as in the story which is 
credibly related of a certain village in the Can- 
ton of Bern in Switzerland, consisting of ninety 
houses, which in the year 1584 were all de- 
stroyed by an earthquake, except one house, 
in which the good man and his family were at 
that time together praying. That promise is 
sure to all the seed of faithful Abraham, " Fear 
not, I am thy shield." Gen. 15 : 1. Wisdom 
herself has passed her word for it, Prov. 1 : 33. 
" Whoso hearkeneth to me," wherever he 
dwells, he " shall dwell safely, and shall be 
quiet from " all real evil itself, and from the 
amazing, tormenting *' fear of evil." Nothing 
can hurt, nothing needs alarm those whom God 

3. If you have not a church in your house, 


it is to he feared that Satan will have a seat 
there. If religion do not rule in your families, 
sin and wickedness will rule there. " I know 
where thou dwellest," says Christ to the angel 
of the church of Pergamos, Rev. 2 : 13, ** even 
where Satan's seat is;" that was his affliction : 
but there are many whose sin it is ; by theii 
irreligion and immorality they allow Satan a 
seat in their houses, and that seat a throne. 
They are very willing that the strong man 
armed should keep his palace there, and that 
his goods should be at peace ; and the surest 
way to prevent this is by setting up a church 
in the house. It is commonly said, that where 
God has a church, the devil will have his 
chapel : but it may more truly be said in this 
case, where God has not a church, the devil 
will have his chapel. If the unclean spirit find 
the house in this sense empty, empty of good, 
though it be swept and garnished, he " taketh 
to himself seven other spirits more wicked than 
himself, and they enter in and dwell there." 

Teri'ible stories have been told of houses 
haunted by the devil, and of the fear people 


have had of dwclHng in such houses ; verily 
tliose houses in which rioting and drunkenness 
reign, in whicli swearing and cursing are the 
language of the house, or in which the more 
spiritual wickednesses of pride, malice, cove- 
tousness and deceit have the ascendency, may 
truly be said to be haunted by the devil ; and 
they are most uncomfortable houses for any 
man to live in ; they are holds of foul spirits, 
and cages of unclean and hateful birds, even as 
Babylon the great when fallen. Rev. IS : 2. 

Now the way to keep sin out of the house 
is to keep up religion in the house, which will 
be the most effectual antidote against Satan's 
poison. When Abraham thought concerning 
Abimelech's house, *' Surely the fear of God is 
not in this place," he concluded no less but 
" they will slay me for my wife's sake. Gen. 
20 : 11. Where no fear of God is, no reading, 
no praying, no devotion, what can one expect 
but all that is bad 1 Where there is impiety 
there will be immorality ; they who restrain 
prayer cast off" fear. Job, 15 : 4. But if reli- 
gious worship have its place in the house, it 


may be hoped that vice will not have a place 
there. There is much of truth in that saying 
of good Mr. Dod, " Either praying will make 
a man give over sinning, or sinning will make 
a man give over praying," There remains 
some hope concerning those who are otherwise 
bad, as long as they keep up prayer. Though* 
there be a struggle between Christ and Belial 
in your houses, and the insults of sin and Satan 
are daring and threatening, yet as long as reli- 
gion keeps the field, and the weapons of its 
warfare are made use of, we may hope the 
enemy will lose ground. 

4. A church in the house will make it very 
comfortable to yourselves. Nothing more agree- 
able to a gi'acious soul than constant commu- 
nion with a gracious God ; it is the One Thing 
it desires, to ** dwell in the house of the Lord ;" 
here it is as in its element, it is its rest for ever. 
If, therefore, our houses be houses of the Lord, 
we shall for that reason love home, reckoning 
our daily devotion the sweetest of our daily 
delights ; and our family-worship the most 
valuable of our family- comforts. This will 


sanctify to us all the conveniences of our house, 
and reconcile us to the inconveniences of it. 
What are Solomon's gardens, and orchards, and 
pools of water, and other delights of the sons 
of men, Eccl. 2 : 5, 6, 8, in comparison with 
these delights of the children of God 1 

Family-religion will help to make our family- 
relations comfortable to us, by promoting love, 
preventing alienation, and healing those that 
may at any time happen. A family living in 
the fear of God, and joining daily in religious 
worship, truly enjoys itself; " Behold how 
good and how pleasant a thing it is for breth- 
ren" thus to ** dwell together ;" it is not only 
like ointment and perfume which rejoice the 
heart, but like the holy ointment, the holy per- 
fume wherewith Aaron the saint of the Lord 
was consecrated : not only like the common 
dew of heaven, but like the dew which de- 
scends upon the mountains of Sion, the holy 
mountains. Ps. 133 : 1, 2, 3. The communion 
of saints in that which is the work of saints, is 
without doubt the most pleasant communion 
here on earth, and the liveliest representation 


and surest pledge of those everlasting joys 
which are the happiness of the spirits of just 
men made perfect, and the hopes of holy souls 
in this imperfect state. 

Family-religion will make the affairs of the 
family successful ; and though they may not in 
every thing issue to our mind, yet we may by* 
faith foresee that they will at last issue to our 
good. If this beauty of the Lord our God be 
upon us and our families, it will prosper the 
work of our hands unto us, yea, the work of 
our hands it will establish, or it will establish 
our hearts in that comfort which makes every 
thing that occurs easy. Ps. 90 : 17; 112 : 8. 

We cannot suppose our mountain to stand 
so strong but that it will be moved ; trouble in 
the flesh we must expect, and affliction in that 
from which we promise ourselves most com- 
fort ; and when divine Providence makes our 
houses houses of mourning, then it will be 
comfortable to have them houses of prayer, and 
to have had them so before. When sickness, 
and sorrrow, and death come into our families, 
(and sooner or later they will come,) it is good 


that they should find prayer ascending, and the 
family accustomed to seek God ; for if we are 
to begin this good work when distress forces 
us to it, we shall drag heavily in it. They who 
pray constantly when they are well, may pray 
comfortably when they are sick. 

5. A church in the house will be a Qrood 
legacy, nay, it will be a good inlicntance^ to 
he left to your children after you. Reason di- 
rects us to consult the welfare of posterity, and 
to lay up in store a good foundation for those 
who shall come after us ; and we cannot do 
this better than by keeping up religion in our 
houses. A family-altar will be the best legacy; 
your children will for this rise up and call you 
blessed, and it may be hoped they will be 
praising God for you, and praising God like 
you, here on earth, when you are praising him 
in heaven. 

You will hereby leave your children the 
benefit of many prayers put up to heaven for 
them, which will be kept, as it were, upon the 
file there, to be answered to their comfort 

when you are silent in the dust. It is time of 


prayer, as we say of winter, " it never rots in 
the skies." The seed of Jacob know they do 
not seek in vain, though perhaps they Hve not 
to see their prayers answered. Christians who 
have made conscience of praying daily with 
and for their children, have reason to hope that 
the children of so many prayers will not perish 
at last : thus encouraged, Joseph's dying word 
has been the language of many a dying chris- 
tian's faith, " I die, but God will surely visit 
you." Gen. 50 : 24. I have heard of a dutiful 
son who said he valued an interest in his pious 
father's prayers far more than his interest in 
his estate, though a considerable one. 

You will likewise hereby leave your children 
a good example, which you may hope they will 
follow when they come into houses of their 
own. The usage and practice of families is 
commonly transmitted from one generation to 
another. Bad customs are many times thus en- 
tailed : they who burnt incense to the Queen 
of Heaven, learnt it of their fathers. Jer. 44 : 
17. And a vain conversation was thus received 
by tradition. 1 Pet. 1 : 18. And why may not 


good customs be in like manner handed down 
to posterity ] Thus we should make known 
the ways of God to our children, that they may 
arise and declare them to their children, Ps. 
76 : 6, and religion may become an inheritance 
in our families. Let our children be able to 
say, when they are tempted to neglect religion, 
that it was the way of their family, the good 
old way, in which their fathers walked, and 
in which they themselves were educated and 
trained up : and with this they may answer 
him who reproaches them. Let family- worship, 
besides all its other pleas for itself, be able in 
your houses to j^lead parental example. And 
though to the acceptableness of the service it is 
requisite that it be done from a higher and 
better principle than purely to keep up the 
custom of the family, yet better so than not at 
all : and the form of godliness may, by the 
gi'ace of God, at length prove the happy vehi- 
cle of its power ; and dry bones whilst un- 
buried may be made to live. Thus " a good 
man leaves an inheritance to his children ; and 
the generation of the upright shall be blessed." 


6. A church in the house will contribute 
very much to the prosperity of the church of 
God in the land. Family-religion, if it prevail, 
will spread religion over the land, and very 
much advance the beauty and peace of oui 
Zion. To this I hope we are all hearty well 
wishers : setting aside the consideration of 
parties and separate interests, and burying all 
names of distinction in the grave of christian 
charity, we earnestly desire to see ti-ue Chris- 
tianity, and serious godliness in the power of it, 
prevailing and flourishing in our land ; to see 
knowledge filling the land as the waters cover 
the sea; to see holiness and love giving law 
and triumphing over sin and strife. We would 
see cause to call our city " A city of righte- 
ousness, a faithful city, its walls salvation and 
its gates praise." All this would be effected 
if family religion were generally maintained. 

When the wall was to be built about Jerusa- 
lem, it was quickly done by this expedient, 
every one undertook to repair over against his 
own house. See Neh. 3 : 10, &c. And if ever 
the decayed walls of the gospel Jerusalem be 


built up it must be by the same method. Every 
one must sweep before his own door, and then 
the street will be clean. If there were a 
chiirch in every house, there would be such 
a church in our land as would make it a praise 
throughout the whole earth. We cannot better 
serve our country than by keeping up religion 
in our families. 

Let families be well catechised, and then 
the public preaching of the word will be the 
more profitable and the more successful. For 
want of this, when we speak ever so plainly of 
the things pertaining to the kingdom of God, 
to the most we do but speak parables. The 
hook of the Lord is delivered to them who are 
not catechised, saying, Read this, and they say 
We are not lea'nied; learned enough they are 
in other things, but not in the one thing need- 
ful. Isa. 29 : 12. But our work is easy with 
those who from their childhood have known 
the Holy Scriptures. 

If every family were a praying family, pub- 
lic prayers would be the better joined in, more 
intelligently and more affectionately, for the 


more we are used to prayer, the more ready we 
shall be in that holy and divine art of '' enter- 
ing into the holiest" in that duty. And public 
reproofs and admonitions would be as a nail in 
a sure place, if masters of families would second 
them with their family discipline, and so clinch 
those nails. 

Religious families are blessings to the neigh- 
borhood they live in, at least by their prayers. 
A good man thus becomes a public good ; and 
it is his ambition to be so. Though he see his 
children's children, he has small joy if he do 
not see peace upon Israel. Ps. 128 -. 5,Q>. And 
therefore postponing all his own interests and 
satisfactions, he sets himself to seek the good 
of Jerusalem all the days of his life. Happy 
were we if there were many such. 

It remains to make some practical appli- 
cation of the whole subject ; and I pray you 
let my counsel be acceptable ; and while I en- 
deavor to give every one his portion, let your 
consciences assist me, and take to yourselves 
that which belongs to you. 


1. Let those heads of families who have 
hitherto lived in the neglect of family-rehgion be 
persuaded now to set it up, and henceforward 
to make conscience of it. I know it is hard to 
persuade people to begin even a good work 
to which they have not been used ; yet, if G od 
by his gi'ace apply this word, who can tell but 
some may be wrought upon to comply with the 
design of it % We have no ill design in urging 
you to this part of your duty : we aim not at 
the advantage of a party, but purely at the 
prosperity of your families. We are sure we 
have reason on our side, and if you will but 
suffer that to rule you, we shall gain our point ; 
and you will all firmly resolve, as Joshua did, 
that whatever others do themselves, and what- 
ever they say of you, you and your houses will 
serve the Lord. God put it into and keep it in 
the imagination of the thought of your heart, 
and establish your way therein before him ! 

Proceed in the right method ; first set up 
Christ upon the throne in your hearts, and then 
set up a church for Christ in your house. Let 
Christ dwell in your hearts by faith, and then 


let him dwell in your houses ; you do not begin 
at the right end of your work if you do not 
first give your own selves unto the Lord; God 
had respect first to Abel, and then to his offer- 
ing. Let the fear and love of Grod mle in your 
hearts, and have a commanding sway and em- 
pire there, and then set up an altar for God in* 
your tents ; for you cannot do that acceptably 
till you have first consecrated yourselves as 
spiritual priests to God, to serve at that altar. 
And when your hearts, like Lydia's, are 
opened to Christ, let your house, like hers, 
be opened to him too. Acts, 16 : 14, 15. Let 
there be churches in all your houses ; let those 
who have the stateliest, richest, and best fur- 
nished houses, reckon a church in them to be 
their best ornament : let those who have houses 
of the greatest care and business, reckon fami- 
ly-religion their best employment ; and not 
neglect the one thing needful while they are 
careful and cumbered about many things : nor 
let those who have close and mean habitations 
be discouraged ; the ark of God long dwelt in 
curtains. Your dwelling is not so straight but 


you may find room for a church iu it. Ciiurch- 
work is often chargeable, but you may do this 
church-work cheap : you need not make silver 
shrines, as they did for Diana, nor lavish gold 
out of the bag, as idolaters did in the service 
of their gods; Isa. 46 : 6; no, "An altar of 
earth shall you make to your God," Exod. 
20 : 24, and he vv^ill accept it. Church-work 
is accustomed to be slow work, but you may 
do this quickly. 'Put on resolution, and you 
may set up this tabernacle to-night, before to- 

Would you keej) up your authority in your 
family 1 You cannot do it better than by keep- 
ing up religion in your family. If ever the 
head of a family appears great, tiTily great, it 
is when he is going before his house in the 
service of God, and presiding among them in 
holy things. Then he shows himself worthy of 
double honor, when he teaches them the good 
knowledge of the Loid, and is their mouth to 
God in the name of God. 

Would you have your family relations com- 
fortable, your affairs successful, and give an 



evidence of your professed subjection to the 
Gospel of Christ ] Would you live in God's 
fear, and die in his favor, and escape that curse 
which is entailed upon prayerless families 1 Let 
religion in the power of it have its due place, 
that is the uppermost place in your houses. 

Many objections your own corrupt hearts ' 
will make against erecting these churches, but 
they will appear frivolous and trifling to a 
pious mind that is steadfastly resolved for God 
and godliness ; you will never go on in your 
way to heaven, if you will be frightened by 
lions in the street. Whatever is the difficulty 


you dread, the discouragement you apprehend 
in it, I am confident it is not insuperable, it 
is not unanswerable. " He that observes the 
wind shall not sow, and he that regards the 
clouds shall not reap." 

Be not loath to begin a new custom, if it be 
a good custom, especially if it be a duty, (as 
certainly this is,) which, w^hile you continue in 
its neglect, you live in sin ; for omissions are 
sins, and must come into judgment. It may be 
that you have been convinced that you ought to 


worsliip God in your families, and that it is a 
good thing to do so ; but you have put it off to 
some more convenient season. Will you now 
at last take occasion from this a]ipeal to begin 
it ? Do not defer so good a work any longer. 
The present season is without doubt the most 
convenient season. Begin this day ; lot this be 
the day of your laying the foundation of the 
Lord's temple in your house; and then consid- 
er, from this day and onward — as God by the 
prophet reasons with the people who neglected 
to build the temple, Hag. 2 : IS, 19 — take 
notice, whether God do not from this day 
remarkably bless you in all that you have 
and do. 

Plead not your own weakness and inability 
to perform family worship ; make use of the 
helps that are provided for you. Do as well as 
you can when you cannot do as well as you 
would, and God will accept of you. You wil- 
lingly write what is necessary for the carrying 
on of your trade, though you cannot write so 
fine a hand as some others can ; and will you 
not be as wise in the work of your christieui 


calling to do your best, though it be far short 
of the best, rather than not do it at all 1 To 
him who has but one talent, and trades with 
that, more shall be given ; but from him who 
buries it, it shall be taken away. Be at some 
pains to make the Scriptures familiar to you, 
especially David's Psalms, and then you can-* 
not be at loss for a variety of apt expressions 
proper to be used in prayer, for they will be 
always at your right hand. TaJce with you those 
words, words which the Holy Ghost teaches, for 
you cannot find more acceptable words. 

And now, shall I prevail with you in this 
matter] I am loth to leave you unresolved, or 
but almost persuaded ; I beg of you, for God's 
sake, for Christ's sake, for your own precious 
soul's sake, and for the children's sake of your 
own bodies, that you will live no longer in the 
neglect of so great, and necessary, and comfort- 
able a duty as this of family- worship. When 
we press upon you the more inward duties of 
faith and love, and the fear of God, it cannot 
be so evident whether we succeed in our 
en-and as it may be in this. It is certain that 


you get no good by this appeal — but it is 
wholly lost upon you — if after you have heard 
it, or read it, you continue in the neglect of 
family-religion ; and if still you " cast off fear, 
and restrain prayer before God." Your fami- 
lies will be witnesses against you that this 
work was undone; and this Tract will be wit- 
ness against you that it was not for want of 
being called to do it, but for want of a heart to 
do it when you were called. But I hope bet- 
ter things of you, my brethren, and things that 
accompany salvation, though I thus speak. 

2. Let those who have kept up family-wor- 
ship formerly, but of late have left it off, he 
■persuaded, to revive it. This perhaps is the case 
of some ; you remember the kindness of your 
youth and the love of your espousals ; time was 
when you sought God daily, and delighted to 
know his ways, as families who did righteous- 
ness, and forsook not the ordinances of your 
God; but now it is otherwise. The altar of 
the Lord is broken down and neglected, the 
daily sacrifice is ceased; and God has kept an 
account how many days it has ceased, whether 


you have or not. Dan. 8 : 13, 14. Now God 
comes into your houses seeking fiiiit, but he 
linds none, or next to none : you are so eager 
in your worldly pursuits, that you have neither 
heart nor time for religious exercises. You 
began at first frequently to omit the service, 
and a small matter served for an excuse to put, 
it by, and so by degrees it came to nothing. 

O that those who have thus left their first 
love would now remember whence they are 
fallen, and repent and do their first works. 
Inquire how this good work came to be ne- 
glected : was it not because your love to God 
grew cold, and the love of the world prevailed 1 
Have you not found a manifest decay in the 
prosperity of your souls since you neglected 
this good work ] Has not sin gained ground in 
your hearts and in your houses 1 And though 
when you dropt your family- worship you prom- 
ised yourselves that you would make it up in 
secret worship, because you were not willing 
to allow yourselves time for both, yet have you 
not declined in that also ? Are you not grown 
less frequent and less fervent in your closet- 


devotions too ? Where is now the blessedness 
you have formerly spoken of? I beseech you 
to lay out yourselves to retrieve it in time,\^ 
Say as the penitent, Hos. 2 : 7, " I will go and 
return to my first husband, for then it was bet- 
ter with me than now." Cleanse the sanctuary, 
and put away the strange gods : is money the 
god, or self-indulgence the god that has gained 
possession of thy heart and house ? Whatever 
it is, cast it out. Repair the altar of the Lord, 
and begin again the daily sacrifice and oblation. 
Light the lam23S again and burn the incense. 
Rear up the tabernacle of David which is fall- 
en down, lengthen its cords and strengthen its 
stakes, and resolve it shall never be neglected 
again as it has been. Perhaps you and your 
families have been manifestly under the re- 
bukes of Providence since you left off your 
duty, — as Jacob was while he neglected to 
pay his vow ; I beseech you hear at length the 
voice of the rod, and of Him who has appoint- 
ed it, for it reminds you of your forgotten 
vows, saying. Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell 
there. Gen. 35 : 1. Let the place thou dwell- 


est in ever be a Bethel, so shall God dwell 
with thee there. 

3. Let those who are remiss and 7iegligent 
in their family-worship be awakened to more 
zeal and constancy. Some of you perhaps have 
a church in your house, but it is not a flourish- 
in »• church: it is like the church of Laodicea,* 
neither cold nor hot; or like the church of 
Sardis, in which the things that remain are 
ready to die ; so that it hath little more than a* 
name to live. Something of this work of the 
Lord is done for fashion-sake, but it is done 
deceitfully : you have in your flock a male, but 
you vow and sacrifice unto the Lord a corrupt 
thing : you grow formal in your accustomed 
services, and bring the torn and the blind, the 
lame and the sick for sacrifice ; and you offer 
that to God which you would scorn to offer to 
your governor : and though it is but little you 
do for the church in your house, you think that 
too much, and say, " Behold what -a weariness 
is it !" You put it off* with a small and incon- 
siderable scantling of your day, and that the 
dregs and refuse of it. You can spare no time 


at all for it in the morning, nor any in the even- 
ing, till you are half asleep. It is thrust into 
a corner and almost lost in a crowd of worldly 
business and carnal conversation. When it is 
done, it is done so slightly, in so much haste, 
and with so little reverence, that it makes no 
impression upon yourselves or your families. 
The Bible lies ready, but you Ijave no time to 
read : your households are otherwise employ- 
ed, and you think it is no matter for calling 
them in: you yourselves can take up with a 
*' word or two of prayer," or rest in a lifeless, 
heartless tale of words. Thus it is every day, 
and perhaps little better on the Lord's day; 
no catechising, no singing of psalms, or none 
to any purpose. 

Is it thus with any of your families 1 Is this 
the present state of the church in your house % 
My brethren, these things ought not so to he. 
It is not enough that you do that which is 
good, but you must do it well. God and reli- 
gion have in effect no place in your hearts or 
houses, if they have not the innermost and the 
uppermost place. Christ will come no where to 


be a guest set behind the door. What comfort, 
what benefit can you promise to yourselves 
from such trifling services as these; from an 
empty form of godhness w^ithout the powder 
of it ? # 

I beseech you make a business of your fami- 
ly religion, and not a by-business. Let it be 
your pleasure and delight, and not a task and 
drudgery. Contrive your affairs so that the 
most convenient time may be allotted both 
morning and evening for your family- w^orship, 
so that you may not be unfit for it, or disturbed 
and straitened in it ; herein wisdom is profit- 
able to direct. Address yourselves to it with 
reverence and seriousness, and a solemn pause; 
that those who join with you may see and say 
that God is with you of a truth, and may be 
struck thereby into a like holy awe. You need 
not be long in the service, but you ought to be 
lively in it ; not slothful in this business, be- 
cause it is the business for God and your 
souls, but fervent in sjyirit, fici'ving the Loi'd. 

4. Let those who have a church in their house 
be very careful to adorn and heautfy it in their 


conversation. { If you pray in your families, anrl 
read the Scriptures, and sing psalms, and yet 
are passionate and fro ward with your relations, 
quarrelsome and contentious with your neigh- 
bors, unjust and deceitful in your dealings, in- 
temperate, or allow yourselves in any other 
sinful way, you pull down with one hand what 
you build up with the other. Your prayers 
will be an abomination to God, and to^goo"n. 
men too, if they be thus polluted." " Be not 
deceived, God is not mocked." 

See that you be universal in your religion, 
tliat it may appear that you are sincere in it. 
Show that you believe a reality in it, by acting 
always under the commanding power and in- 
fluence of it. Be not Christians upon your 
knees and Jews in your shops. While you 
seem saints in your devotions, prove not your- 
selves sinners in your life. Having begun the 
dny in the fear of God, bo in that fear all the 
dny long. Let the example you set your fami- 
lies be throughout good, and by it teach them 
not only to read and pray, for that is but half 
their work, but by it teach them to be meek 


and humble, sober and temperate, loving and 
peaceable, just and honest; so shall you adorn 
the doctrine of God our Savior; and those who 
will not be won by the word, shall be won 
by your godly life. Your family-worshij) is an 
honor to you, see to it that neither you nor 
yours be in any thing a disgrace to it. 

5. Let tliose tolio arc setting out in the toorld 
set U2^ a cliurcli in their house at first, and not 
defer it. Plead not youth and bashfulness ; if 
you have confidence enough to rule a family, I 
hope you have confidence enough to pray with 
a family. Say not, " The time is not come, the 
time that the Lord's house should be built," as 
thev did who " dwelt in their ceiled houses," 
while God's house lay waste. Hag. 1 : 2, 4. It 
ought to be built immediately; and the longer 
you put it off the more difficulty there will be 
in doing it, and the more danger that it will 
never be done. 

Now you are beginning the world, as you 
call it, is it not your wisdom as well as duty to 
begin with God? Can you begin better] Or 
can you expect to prosper if you do not begin 


llius'? The. fuller your heads are of care about 
setting up house, and setting up shoji, and set- 
tling in both, the more need you have of daily 
])rayer, that by it you may cast your care on 
God, and gain wisdom and direction from on 

G. In all your removals be sure you tale the 
*' church in your house^' almig iciiJi you. Abra- 
ham often removed his tent, but wherever he 
pitched it, there the first thing he did was to 
build an altar. It is observable cuncerninj* 
Aquila and Priscillu, of whose ])ious family 
Paul speaks, 1 Cor. ]G : 19, that when he 
Avrote his epistle to the Corinthians they were 
probably at Rome ; for he sends salutations to 
them thither, and there it is said they had a 
church in their house. Ilom. IG : 3. But 
when he wrote his epistle to the Romans they 
were at E2:)hesus ; for thence it should seem 
this epistle bore date, and here he sends salu- 
tations from them ; and at Ephesus also they 
had a " church in their house." As wherever 
we go ourselves we must take our religion 
with us ; so wherever we take our families, or 


part of them, we must take our f^imily-religion 
with us ; for in all places we need Divine pro- 
tection, and experience Divine goodness. " I 
will therefore that men pray every where." 

When you are in your city houses, let not 
the business of them crowd out your family- 
religion, nor let the diversions of your country- 
liouses indispose your minds to these serious 
exercises. That care and that pleasure are 
unseasonable and inordinate which leave you 
not both heart and time to attend the service 
of the church in vour house. 

. Let me here be an advocate also for those 
families whose masters are often absent from 
them, for their health or pleasure, especially 
on the Lord's day, or long absent upon busi- 
ness : and let me bear these absent masters to 


consider with whom they leave those few 
sheep in the wilderness, 1 Sam. 17 : 28, and 
whether they do not leave them neglected" 
and exposed^ Perhaps there is not a just 
cause for your absence so much, nor can you 
give a good answ^er to that question, ''What 
doest thou here, Elijah?" But if there be a 


just cause, you ought to take care that the 
ciuirch in your house be not neglected when 
you are abroad, but that the work be done 
when you are not at home to do it. 

7. Let all members of families help to pro- 
mote family-religion. If family-worship be not 
kept up in the houses where you live, let so 
much the more be done in your closets for 
God and your souls : if it be, yet think not that 
will excuse you from secret- worship : all is lit- 
tle enough to keep up the life of religion in 
your hearts, and help you forward toward 

Let the children of praying parents and the 
servants of praying masters account it a gi'eat 
privilege to live in houses that have churches 
in them, and be careful to improve that privi- 
lege. Be you also ready to every good work ; 
make the religious exercises of your family 
easy and pleasant to those who perform them, 
by showing yourselves ready to be present, 
and careful to attend to them ; for your back- 
wardness and carelessness will be their great- 
est discouragement. Let your lives also be a 


credit to good education, and make it appear 
to all with whom you converse, that you are 
every way the better for living in religious 

8. Let those who have not families , have 
churches in their chambers, churches in their 
closets. When every man repaired the wall 
of Jerusalem over against his own house, we 
read of one that repaired over against his 
chamber. Neh. 3 : 30. Those who live alone 
out of the way of family- worship, ought to take 
so much the more time for their secret-wor- 
ship, and if possible add the more solemnity 
to it. You have not families to read the Scrip- 
tures to, read them so much the more to your- 
selves. You have not children and servants to 
catechise, nor parents or masters to be cate- 
chised by; catechise yourselves then, that you 
may hold fast the form of sound words which 
you have received. Exhort one another ; so we 
read it, Heb. 3 : 13 ; exhort yourselves^ so it 
might as well be read. You are not made 
keepers of the vineyards, and therefore the 
greater is your shame if your own vineyards 


you do not keep. AVhen you are alone, yet 
you are not alone, for the Father is with you, 
to observe what you do, and to own and accept 
you, if you do well. 

9. Let those who are to choose a settlement^ 
consult the welfare of their souls in the choice. 
If a church in the house be so necessary, so 
comfortable, then be ye not unequally j^oked 
with unbelievers, who will have no inclination 
for the church in the house, nor assist in the 
support of it, but instead of building this house, 
pluck it down with their hands. Prov. 14 : 1. 
Let apprenticeships and other services be cho- 
sen by this rule, that ** that is best for us which 
is best for our souls ;" and therefore it is our in- 
terest to go with those, and be with those, with 
whom God is. Zech. 8 : 23. When Lot was to 
choose a habitation, he was determined therein 
purely by secular advantages, Gen. 13 : 11, 13, 
and God justly corrected his sensual choice, 
for he never had a quiet day in the Sodom 
he chose, till he was burnt out of it. The Jew- 
ish writers tell of one of their devout rabbins, 
who being courted to dwell in a place 'which 


was otherwise well accommodated, but had no 
synagogue near, he utterly refused to accept 
the invitation, and gave that text for his reason, 
Psa. 119 : 72, "The law of thy mouth is bet- 
ter to me than thousands of gold and silver." 

10. Let religious families keep up friend- 
ship and fellowship loiili each other, and as they 
have opportunity assist one another in doing 
good. The communion of churches has always 
been accounted their beauty, strength and com- 
fort, and so is the communion of these domes- 
tic churches. We find here, and in other of 
Paul's epistles, kind salutations sent to and 
from the houses that had churches in them. 
Religious families should gi'eet one another, 
visit one another, love one another, pray for 
one another, and as become households of 
faith, do all the good they can one to another; 
forasmuch as they all meet daily at the same 
throne of grace, and hope to meet shortly at the 
same throne of glory, to be no more as they are 
now, divided in Jacob, and scattered in Israel. 

Lastly, Let those houses that have churches 
in thefti, flourishing churches, have comfort in 


them. Is religion in tlic power ol'it nppermost 
in your houses ] and are you and yours serv- 
ing the Lord, serving liim daily ] Go on and 
prosper, for the Lord is with you, while you 
be with him. Sec your houses under tlve pro- 
lection and blessing of heaven, and be assured 
that all thinc^s shall work to^rether for [jood to 
you. Make it to appear by your holy cheerful- 
ness that you fmd God a good master. Wis- 
dom's ways pleasantness, and her paths peace ; 
and that you see no reason to envy those who 
spend their days in carnal mirth, since you are 
acquainted with better ])leasures than any they 
can pretend to. 

Are your houses on earth God's houses ? 
Are they dedicated to him and emjiloyed for 
him? Be of good comfort, his house in heaven 
shall be yours shortly : Li ?n// Father's house 
there are many mansions ; and there is one, you 
may be sure, for each of you, who thus, hij a 
patient continuance in well-doings seek for glory ^ 
honor and immortalitij. 



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